Ex-mayor pleads guilty in Wild West museum artifacts case

FILE – In this July 14, 2015 file photo, former Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Stephen Reed arrives for his preliminary arraignment at District Judge William Wenner's offices in Lower Paxton Township, Pa. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (Dan Gleiter/PennLive.com via AP, File)
FILE – This July 10, 2003 file photo shows an 1800s field printing press used by the U.S. Army in the Arizona Territory to make posters of escaped Apache war chief Geronimo, displayed at the Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Stephen Reed's office in Harrisburg. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE – In this June 2, 2015, file photo, an investigator lifts a statue onto a truck while removing Western artifacts from the home of former Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Stephen Reed in Harrisburg, Pa. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (Sean Simmers/PennLive.com via AP, File)
FILE – This July 10, 2003 file photo shows an 1800s revolver that entrepreneur, gambler and lawman Wyatt Earp kept in the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone in the Arizona Territory, displayed at the Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Stephen Reed's office in Harrisburg. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE – In this July 14, 2015 file photo, former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed waits to make a statement after his preliminary arraignment at District Judge William Wenner's offices in Lower Paxton Township, Pa. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (Dan Gleiter/PennLive.com via AP, File)
FILE – In this March 15, 2004 file photo, Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Stephen Reed stands behind the bronze sculpture Moment of Mercy by Terry Jones at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE – In this June 2, 2015 file photo, an investigator carries a saddle while removing Western artifacts from the home of former Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Stephen Reed in Harrisburg, Pa. Jury selection is set to begin Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the criminal case against Reed, charged with receiving stolen property after spending millions in public funds to buy artifacts for a Wild West museum that was never built. His lawyer says Reed didn't steal anything and was in lawful possession of the items. (Sean Simmers/PennLive.com via AP, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A former mayor pleaded guilty Monday to 20 counts of receiving stolen property related to his ill-starred effort to bring a Wild West museum to his central Pennsylvania city.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, 67, faces serious health problems and felt pleading guilty was the right thing to do, his lawyer said.

"We think this is an opportunity now to move on with his life and get the treatment he needs for his illness," said attorney Henry Hockeimer Jr.

The plea came before jury selection was scheduled to get underway for Reed's trial on 114 counts. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining 94 charges.

"We think that this achieves justice for not only the commonwealth, but the city of Harrisburg," said Joe Grace, spokesman for the state attorney general's office.

Hockeimer said all 20 counts to which Reed pleaded guilty involve photos or documents. Reed, who led the city of Harrisburg for nearly three decades, had also been accused of receiving stolen property for other items, including stagecoach equipment and firearms.

Sentencing was scheduled for Friday.

In a statement, Reed said that "more times than I can count," he purchased items that were the same or similar to artifacts being purchased for the museum, which was never built. Reed said he ultimately concluded he ended up with items that belonged to the city.

"How they got into some box when moving out of office seven years ago, I don't know," Reed said. "My guess is they were thrown in with a bunch of similar things in the haste of getting everything packed."

Reed, a Democrat, said he was diagnosed with cancer and recounted his mayoral accomplishments.

"Today's proceeding does not, in any way, affect nor take away from any of that progress," he said.

Reed and city staff traveled the country to accumulate the artifacts, eventually spending about $8.3 million in public money for some 10,000 items. Thousands of them were sold after he took office, producing about $4.4 million. Experts said they were a mixture of items with real value alongside fakes and junk.

A grand jury report issued nearly two years ago said Reed had "an almost pathological preoccupation" with buying artifacts and that some within city staff tried to stop him.

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